“In the days when the judges ruled there was famine in the land…” – Ruth 1:1
Some days I feel like I live in the days of the Judges.
I belong to an email group. It’s a group of seven women from around the country who have randomly been brought together through heartache; married, single, mothers, daughters, and sisters. We don’t know each other in person and we’re boldly sharing our stories, our hopes, our fears, our grief, and our gladness with one another. I’ve wept reading their heartache and begged God for relief.
Some days, I'm begging God for deliverance, watching my friends' hearts chopped into tiny pieces and sent throughout the country. This is when I feel like I'm living in the times of the Judges.
See the days of the Judges was disturbing. In fact the book ends with one of the most gruesome and harrowing stories in the Bible starting in Judges 19.
Let me give you the rundown. A Levite has a concubine wife (a woman who would’ve been considered his wife). Verse 2 notes that this woman was unfaithful to him, however to what degree it’s unknown, whether her unfaithfulness was physical or emotional. Speculation is that the home of this Levite was one of unrest and frequent fights between he and his wife.
The unfaithful woman packs up and heads to her father’s house. Four months later, the Levite leaves with a servant to fetch his wife, “To speak kindly to her and bring her back…” (verse 3). So far, so good. It looks like an average American relationship and we believe beautiful restoration is about to occur.
The Levite comes to his wife and they seem to make up. They stay six days and leave late on the sixth day.
The trio (the Levite, his wife, and his servant) travel late into the night and end up arriving in the town of Gibeah, a Bejaminite tribe. An old man shows up and offers a place to stay.
This is where the story takes a turn. The men of the city show up, surround the house, beat on the door, and demand that the Levite be sent out so that “they may know him.”(verse 22). The Hebrew translation “know” to have sex/rape/be intimate. It is cross referenced with the story in Genesis 19:4 when the men of Sodom approach Lot’s house and ask that the angels be sent out so that “they may know them”. Sadly, just like Lot offered his daughters as substitute in the Genesis story, the Gibeah host offers his virgin daughter and the Levite’s wife as substitute for the ravenous sexual appetite of the townsmen.
The host's petition is chilling, “Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” (Judges 19:24)
The men get in such a frenzy the host grabs the Levite’s wife and sends her out to the crowd. She is repeatedly raped.
The text literally says she is raped, abused, and beaten over and over and over from nightfall until dawn.
I can’t read that without feeling so much anger and sadness. My eyes get misty and I want vindication. How many of my friends do I know who have similar stories?
The battered woman crawls back to the old man’s house, falls down at his door and dies. She was literally raped to death.
The story says she dies with her arms outstretched over the threshold, a symbol of her begging for forgiveness. Even in her death she cries out for pardon.
Her husband rises in the morning, sees her laying at the door and says, “Let’s go!” thinking she’s asleep. Her cold, limp body lies unmoving and he realizes she's dead. The Levite mechanically packs up his dead wife on his donkey and heads directly home.
Now for the gruesome to begin. Once he arrives home, he finds a sharp knife and cuts up the battered, bruised, torn body of his wife into pieces and sends her throughout all the territory of Israel to make a statement, “Look at the wretchedness of the men of Gibeah.”
War on the tribe of Benjamin begins.
A war so vile the entire tribe of Benjamin is almost annihilated save for a few men, who are left to steal the virtuous daughters of Shiloh so the tribe isn't lost. These daughters are taken as tokens for a man, objects to achieve a goal, preservation of the tribe.
The book ends, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
I think it was my Old Testament professor in Bible college who said, “You can tell a culture’s relationship to God by how they treat women.” We had just finished the book of Judges and the darkness of the book permeated the lecture hall.
Sitting in the cruelty of the days of Judges our hearts felt foggy, numb, and hopeless.
That's why some days I feel like I'm living in the time of the judges, watching women become objects for a means to an end. And this isn't just outside the church. Listening to the stories of my friend's hearts being chopped into tiny pieces, we've become a means to an end.
We’re a click away on a computer. We’re just a few months in a relationship and being asked for physical favors. We’re on billboards. We’re stared at inappropriately at the train station. We're told our desire for emotional intimacy and relationship is unrealistic. We’re available in movies and revealed on the covers of magazines. We're asked to obey without heart. We're neglected but demanded for affection. We're in a Bible study keeping silent about our opinions. We're asked to cook, clean, raise children and not have any ideas outside the home. We're seen as sexual objects striving for the power of men and having to be kept in check. Objects without hearts, feelings, and lives.
We're offered to satiate a mob's desire, cast out into the frenzy or stolen from safety.
But, women, we are so much more than that.
Now guys, don’t get the wrong impression. I’m not blaming you. I’m not blaming either gender. I’m not boarding the feminist bandwagon and shaking my fist at men. I desire the eyes of both men and women to be opened and for us to start stepping into who we were meant to be. Together, a full and complete expression of God's image.
That expression is lost when one becomes greater than another. When a host offers his virgin daughter and the Levite's concubine to protect the Levite. They all should be protected and fought for.
Women, we have willingly entered becoming objects and commodities, forfeiting our beauty in the process. Men have abdicated, whether through dominance or passivity, protecting and caring for the gift that was given them and their strength begins tarnishing.
No one started it. We've willingly entered our current situation of heartache. And this is exactly where the enemy would want to position us, in a place where God's beautiful expression of himself through men and women together is lost and poisoined.
And as a result, my friends' hearts continue to be chopped into tiny pieces and their worth keeps fading. The full expression of God's image slowly diminishing, and men and women aren't tasting the fullness of kingdom partnership.
Men, we need you. We’re crying out for you not to be anything else but the men God created you to be.
And women, Jesus is calling us to himself, and asking us not to be anything or anyone other than who he designed us to be.
There is hope, the hope of a Kinsman Redeemer, and the contrast of the man that Boaz is.
Ruth begins, “In the days when the judges ruled there was famine in the land…” (Ruth 1:1). When everyone did "what was right in his own eyes", when their eyes and hearts were diverted from God, that's when God decides to write a beautiful love story of a Kinsman Redeemer who cares for and accepts a destitute, foreign woman.
But ultimately, the redeemer is Jesus.
Jesus is our ultimate Kinsman Redeemer, weeping with me and my friends, mending the hearts chopped into tiny pieces and binding our wounds. He's there fighting for us to step into being the men and women he designed us to be. He's calling out for us to work together and begin living as the perfect expression of who he is.
Not diminishing or demeening either expression of his image, but honoring, fighting, and celebrating who he designed us to be.
Let's fight together against the sad fate of the Levite and his wife.